Thursday, 07 July 2022

Council won’t fight new homes at airfield

Council won’t fight new homes at airfield

PLANS for 3,000 homes at Chalgrove Airfield could still go ahead after county councillors refused to oppose them.

Homes England, a government agency which owns the site, is due to submit a new application to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, after withdrawing a previous one in May in response to concerns about the suitability of the land.

In November, the agency said it would address the issues raised.

Last week, Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, said it would not express reservations about the suitability of the site or the likely effect of the development on the climate as planning was the responsibility of South Oxfordshire District Council.

Councillor Freddie Van Mierlo, who represents Watlington, presented a motion condemning the proposal at a council meeting.

He said: “Our administration wants this council to walk the walk on climate emergency but Chalgrove is a rural village that sits in a network of rural villages where already residents are dependent on private vehicles and there’s only one bus service to Oxford.

“Roads around Watlington and Benson would suffer a massive increase in traffic.

“Already the council lacks funds to maintain the road network and rural developments of this nature require disproportionately large numbers of roads compared to the houses delivered.

“We can’t continue adding pressure to the highways network without a plan on maintenance.

“I reject the view that this is a district-only matter — to absolve ourselves of the ability to debate highways issues and climate issues is incorrect. There is a symbiotic relationship between districts and the county and it’s important that this chamber takes a view on issues that impact both.”

However, other councillors said that for the council to express a view on a planning matter would set a “dangerous” precedent.

Last year, the Civil Aviation Authority wrote to the district council saying it had “very significant concerns” about the plans.

It said the airfield could not become a housing development and remain a testing site for ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker, which has a lease from Homes England to stay on site until 2063.

The original plans were for a “new town” with two primary schools, a secondary school, sixth-form college, shops, a healthcare hub, community and leisure facilities and 40,000 sq m of employment space.

Watlington and Benson parish councils were among 22 which objected. The councils said they would be “materially affected” by the development, which would increase the population of Chalgrove from 2,700 to 9,800.

The objectors say the airfield is not suitable for development because there is a lack of road infrastructure in the area to support the increase in traffic.

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